Sunday, March 3, 2013

Yes, That Too: Autistic People Are Refusing To Be Erased From Their Own Activism, Autism Speaks

Reprinted from Yes, That Too

Autistic people are the ones who raised the fuss.
Google responded to our voices. You tip your hat to them, but do not mention us or our voices?
We will not be erased.
Autistic people are the ones who made this happen.
Autistic people are the ones who made the calls, who wrote the blogs.
Autistic people are the ones who compiled the blogs.
Autistic people are the ones who wrote the press release, who spoke to the reporter.
Autistic people are the makers of this change.
Autistic people.
It didn't just happen.
Tip your hats to Google, sure, but also to the ones who told Google so.
Tip your hats to those who kept at it when Google said it was unfortunate, but that nothing will be done.
We are here.
We will not be erased.
Autistic people are speaking.
Autism Speaks, will you listen?
Autistic people are demanding an apology.
Autistic people are demanding the credit they are due.
Autistic people are refusing your erasure from our own activism.
Autistic people are speaking.
Autism Speaks, will you listen?
Or will we have to remind the world?
Autistic people are not represented by Autism Speaks.
Autistic people are represented by ourselves.

Autistic People are Beautiful

This post is reprinted with permission from Rebel Mom's blog Raising Rebel Souls, which you can read here.
Autistic people are beautiful.

Intensely beautiful!
and lovely!
and joyful!

When I first noticed my young Son flapping his hands,
I saw a maestro,
a hand dancer,
a beautiful child!

I had no idea yet that he was Autistic.
I had no idea yet how the world would change what I saw.

Suddenly, his hands became red flags waving.
Suddenly, I became afraid.

Duped by what society thinks about Autism.
Tricked into tragedy.
Led into lies.

The world has it all wrong.

Autistic people are beautiful!
My Son is beautiful!

When I first noticed my other young Son began connecting with others,
I saw a benevolent Soul,
a gift of openness,
a true friend,
a lovely child!

I had no idea yet that he was Autistic.

Suddenly, his personality became "outgoing to a fault."

The world has it all wrong.

Autistic people are lovely!
My Son is lovely!

When the world contradicted all those good feelings I had for my Sons,
I Rebelled.

I found the Autistic community, Autistic people, Autistic friends!
I had no idea yet how they would change what I saw.

I saw them demanding the rights to their reputation,
I saw the reason why.

Autism is not to be feared!
Autism is not a tragedy!

The world is lying to you!
The world has it all wrong!

When I looked to Autistic people it was not so hard to notice.
I see true again!

Incredible happiness,
Thousands of wonderful things!

Autistic people are joyful!

My lovely Sons, every day, you show me just what joy means.

Autistic people are beautiful.

This poem is part of a flash blog aimed at changing the way Google auto-completes it's searches on "Autistic people are..." Last week, a very successful flash blog was held to protest and change the same kind of thing, with "Autistic people should..." Unfortunately, when either of these phrases are typed into a search bar, Google offers automatic and seriously damaging suggestions like:

If you type "Autistic people should" into a Google search box, these are the results that Google suggests based the most popular recent searches.
Picture from Musings of an Aspie

Picture from the main flash blog site, Autistic People Are...

This is obviously unacceptable, and Google has made some changes, but they have more work to do! Join us!

We continue to protest!

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Yes, That Too: Autistic People Are.

Reprinted from Yes, That Too

We are teachers, doctors, lawyers, plumbers, friends, mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, shopkeepers, activists, advocates, farmers, dentists, cashiers, mailpeople, police officers, everything that non-autistic people are, Autistics, autistic people, and people with autism all are, all can be.
We are what we decide to be.
And we are strong.
Yes, really.
Autistic people are strong, because we have to be.
Autistic people are courageous, because we have to be.
We shouldn't have to be.
We shouldn't have to be brave in order to be ourselves. We shouldn't live in a world where moving the way it comes naturally for us to move, using our bodies the way it comes naturally, is a courageous act of rebellion.
That's the world where we live.
Autistic people are navigating a world not designed for us.
It should be designed so as to at least not hurt us, but we don't even get that level of access.
Autistic people are a part of human diversity.
The world should realize this. It so often doesn't.
Autistic people are.
We just are.

Musings of an Aspie: Autistic People Are Everywhere

This post is reprinted with permission from Musings of an Aspie and appears in its original post and blog, which you can visit by clicking the links.


This post is a part of today’s “Autistic people are . . .” flashblog. You may have seen the news this week that Google has promised to eliminate the problematic “Autistic people should” autocompletes in response to last week’s flashblog. They’ve said it will take time to engineer, so while the hateful autocompletes are still appearing, hopefully they’ll soon be gone. 

We can make a difference by speaking up.


Autistic people are everywhere.

We sit next to you at school and on the bus. We give your dog his rabies shot, teach your kids, make your latte and sweep the floor at your grocery store. We pass you on the sidewalk and stand beside you on the subway. We eat in the same restaurants, shop in the same stores, go to the same gyms that you do.

We are mothers and fathers, husbands, wives and partners. We are sons and daughters, sisters and brothers, aunts, uncles and grandparents.

We are everywhere, all around you.


If you don’t see us, it’s because we’ve mastered the art of hiding in plain sight.

We don’t come neatly labeled. Many of us don’t “look” autistic. You can interact with us and not realize you’ve talked to, worked with, studied with, played with, cursed out, fallen in love with, or are related to an autistic person.

We often don’t share our neurological status unless we feel that we absolutely have too, and even then sometimes we don’t.

There is no payoff for calling attention to our differences. There is no reward for being openly autistic. The risks are real.

Many of us remain quietly, even silently, autistic.

We are everywhere, sitting beside you, walking past you, interacting with you. Do you see us?

Moment of Truth: Autistic People technicians

This post is reprinted with permission from Rather Unique's original post and blog Moment of Truth, which you can visit by clicking on the links.

   I am a full time pharmacy technician.  I have held this job for 6 years.  I work sometimes up to 50 hours a week.  I interact with a lot of people, sometimes over 100 in a day.  It is not easy to deal with so many people in one day.
  It is not my first retail job.  Most of the jobs I had involved me dealing with the public.  I was not very good at it at first, which is likely why I did not keep those jobs.  I am not terribly comfortable with the public, but I manage.
   Out of desperation, over 10 years ago a friend got me a job at the electronics retailer he worked.  High pressure sales, you produce or get out.  Fortunately, he was a good friend and taught me things.  Fortunately the job had training videos.  I learned the value of small talk and eye contact (or in my case, feigning it).  I don't much like small talk, but it has much value to others.
   With a template on how to sell, which I followed with precision, I became an above average performer.  Nowhere near the best, but not in fear of my position.  I also suffered tremendous anxiety from that job.  I felt like I was forcing people to spend hard earned money on things they do not need.  Why spend money on things you don't need?  It troubled my sense of logic that I was there to convince people that they need things that they don't need.  I was ashamed of myself and I quit.
   The pharmacy is different.  People come in for things they do need, and its my job to help them get it.  I am much more at peace with that, so the socializing does not bother me as much. 
   Many of the skills I learned from the electronics job serve me well as a pharmacy employee.  Most of the people that come in are suffering, or caring for a loved one that is suffering.  Even if it is just for a maintenance drug, that prescription is a reminder to that person of their own mortality.  Eye contact, a soft smile and brief small talk off the topic of illness of medication makes the experience more pleasant for the patient.
   Most people are in a hurry to get out of the pharmacy, which makes the small talk brief and unstressful.  Occasionally you get a person that likes to talk.  My talk template runs dry in about 120 seconds, then I am in trouble.
   Having engaged in social pleasantries makes moments when a patient has a high unexpected copay or deductible or no insurance at all, and not expecting the cost less traumatizing for me,  I do not like to give people bad news, it causes me great stress.  If I am tired, especially at the end of my day I do sometimes forget my social pleasantries.  I look at the counter while I speak and do not make small talk.  This results in whatever problem that patient may have being taken out on me although I am not the cause of that persons discomfort.
   I wish interactions could be more brief.  The sooner I am done, the sooner that person gets to go home and take their medication, and the sooner I can get to work on the next one.  Less suffering for all that ends sooner, but for some reason that perfectly reasonable philosophy is lost on most.
   Social pleasantries help when dealing with call centers for insurance.  I have never worked at a call center, but they say it is an unpleasant job.  The turnover ratio is high.  I have a template for talking to them.  I try to guess where they are from by the accent.  Then I ask them how the weather there is.  Gets them on my side, which is good since they are essentially my enemy and working for a company that is being a jerk and not wanting to give medication that is making my patient feel better or possibly keeping them alive.
   I work in a small pharmacy.  Three people back there at most normally.  Sometimes managers and visitors come.  I don't like them in my workspace one bit.  Sometimes too many patients are in the pharmacy, with too many conversations that I hear all at once.  Sometimes my clothes are too itchy.  Sometimes the sun is too bright through the window.  Sometimes I tell my boss I have to go to the bathroom and I cool down in there.
  I like to touch the door to the storage room.  I keep my water and coffee over by that door on top of a half sized fridge, and it is cut off from view by a shelf of medicine.  People think I am going for a drink, but I am going to touch the door.  The door is cool and smooth and I like it.  I wiggle my toes inside of my work boots while I count pills.  I shift weight from one leg to the other while at the cash register.
   The store has had the same song list playing over the speakers for years.  I like to sing along until I am told to stop, which is often.  It has been brought to my attention that I cannot sing.  I don't dare dance....I have the grace of a groggy hippo.
   Sometimes patients die.  I have to go to the bathroom when I hear about it and hide.  Sometimes I cry,.  I do not let people see me cry, at home or at work.  Sometimes a friend or spouse of that person comes in to the store.  I don't know what to say.  I say "I'm sorry".  I wish I had something more profound to say but my mind does not give me words at those moments.
   I like what I do, I like to help people.  If I feel like I helped someone it makes the discomfort worth it.  Also dealing with the suffering keeps my own life in perspective..  People at work like me.  They know I am a weirdo but its ok.  We are all human.. 

The Caffeinated Aspie: Autistic people are…

This post is reprinted with permission from The Caffeinated Aspie and appears in its original post and blog, which you can visit by clicking on those links. 

Last week, we blogged about “Autistic people should…” as a response to Google’s autocomplete suggestions for “autistic people should” and “autistic people can”.  This was a flash blogging event, and there are more entries chronicled here. 

Since then, a number of things have happened.  People took notice. This is a good thing! Google is going to change their search terms. Even large organizations like Autism Speaks noticed! That’s a good thing, right? Oh wait.  Autism Speaks mentioned Google.  They didn’t mention anything about the Autistic people who made this happen.  Comments on their page by Autistic people have gone completely unanswered.  This, on the day when we as Autistics are taking time to mourn our dead, unjustly killed by their caretakers.  Deaths that were caused by the terrible ideals that Autism Speaks perpetuates.  I am demanding an apology from Autism Speaks.

So today, I am going to tell you a little bit about this community of mine.

Autistic people are authors of our own stories.  Too many times, I find an article about an autistic person that makes me think that their voice is going to be adequately represented, that they’re going to be able to tell their own story.  And while that is sometimes true, most of the time it is not.  I’ve gone into the #autism tag on Tumblr on more than one occasion, seeking to connect with my fellow autistic people, and finding nothing more than parents and siblings and educators and so-called “experts” talking about someone they know who “has autism”.

But Autistic people are speaking! Loudly! In many different forums.  I find that I can connect with a great deal of very diverse Autistic individuals online, because it’s certainly easier for most of us to communicate in text-based ways than verbally or in person.  Autistic people are capable of telling our own stories.  While, yes, we may appreciate being backed up by our family members, we don’t need them trampling all over us in order to tell our story for us, as though we cannot do it on our own.

Autistic people are competent.  There’s a saying that goes for all of the disability community, but is especially relevant to autism, as there are many among us who are nonspeaking.  That phrase is “presume competence”.  Assume that regardless of a person’s level of communication, you must presume that they are able to understand you, I’m constantly reminded whenever we talk about presuming competence of Carly Fleischmann, and how her parents were told that she was incapable of understanding.  They were told incorrect information regarding their daughter’s diagnosis, and as such, they assumed that she didn’t have the ability to understand.  That is, until she turned 11, was given access to a computer keyboard and she began typing her thoughts. This is the case with many nonspeaking individuals.  I recall one of the last documentaries I watched (that wasn’t autistic-led, which is hard to find in the first place) was Loving Lampposts.  In it, one of the nonspeaking Autistics said that people presume that he doesn’t have much to say, that there’s little of worth that he will communicate.  This is the problem with in-person communication between neurotypical folks (who are sometimes considered “experts” but really know very little) and autistic folks.  The NT folks see someone who cannot speak, who stims quite a bit, and they think “weird”, “not having anything to contribute”.  However, if these NT folks came upon some of the nonspeaking Autistics I know online, they would claim that there was no way that they could be “low-functioning,” because in many NT folks’ mind, “low-functioning” equals “non-thinking” or “incapable”.  Autistic people are competent.

Autistic people are more than a functioning label.  This is related to point #2, of course.  It’s a little bit ridiculous, but many allistic and NT folks (allistic simply means “not autistic”, whereas NT means “completely neurotypical with no neurodivergences) tend to like to put these labels on those of us who are Autistic.  ”High functioning”, “low functioning” — all of these undefined terms that really don’t mean anything.  Laura Tisoncik described the dichotomy best when she said “The difference between high-functioning and low-functioning is that high-functioning means your deficits are ignored, and low- functioning means your assets are ignored.” In other words, it’s a no-win situation.  I’ve had the functioning label thrown at me over and over again.  I’m “too high functioning” to deserve a voice in the debate over a cure, so some say.  But then again, “low functioning” folks don’t get a voice either, because they aren’t able to have coherent thoughts, and opinions and make decisions about their own lives.  I am a person.  Autistic people are people, first and foremost.  We are not functions.  I addressed some of this (and a few other points) in this post.

Autistic people are brilliant. This doesn’t mean “high IQ”.  That’s not what I mean when I say brilliant.  Perhaps it’s somewhat of a throwaway word, overused like “awesome” and “amazing”.  But Autistic people are brilliant.  We are a people who are often treated as though we are not quite human, we are erased, we are dehumanized, we are told we have no empathy, we are monsters, we are not worthy of love or affection, and that in the end, our abusers will be the ones to receive sympathy if we are abused or murdered.  We are told that we are not trustworthy because of our awkward body language and lack of eye contact.  But you know what? We are resilient.  We are survivors, and we fight every single day of our lives to do away with the stigma against people like us.  Not every one of us can be “out” as autistic, because currently, that’s not safe to do.  Despite the fact that autism is a disability covered under the ADA, many of us have been discriminated against with regards to schooling and work, and perhaps it is necessary to hide, to “act neurotypical”.  Autistic people are a community.  We are a community of very different people who share a common experience with the world — an overwhelming yet beautiful place to live.

Autistic people are brilliant.

Henry Frost: Autistic People Are

This post is reprinted by permission and appeared originally on Ollibean's site, which you can visit by clicking the link.

Autistic people are people. Autistic people are complex. Autistic people are happy. Autistic people are kind. Autistic people are accepting. Autistic people are helpful. Autistic people are mentors. Autistic people are doctors. Autistic people are engineers. Autistic people are writers. Autistic people are leaders. Autistic people are accountants. Autistic people are heros. Autistic people are artists. Autistic people are models. Autistic people are film makers. Autistic people are backpackers. Autistic people are musicians. Autistic people are teachers. Autistic people are sherpas. Autistic people are trainers. Autistic people are neighbors.

Autistic people are brothers.

Autistic people are sisters.

Autistic people are mothers.

Autistic people are fathers.

Autistic people are daughters.

Autistic people are sons.

Autistic people are you.

Autistic people are me.

I am you.

Autistic = People

Autistic people define autism.

Are you with us?